Youth Engagement Toolkit
Youth are making a huge impact both in Texas and nationally. They are getting involved in policy changes, and they are developing relationships with adults working in tobacco prevention and cessation. Youth can take a lead role in supporting those who want to quit and helping peers resist the pressure to smoke.
Although this toolkit is centered around tobacco, the skills and principles can (and should be!) transferred to all areas of prevention and social or environmental change.
We've seen an evolution in the past 50 years from viewing youth as problems to be fixed to seeing youth as agents of and partners in creating the change we need to address the problems.
Young people are not part of the problem, but rather they are part of the solution - and if we leave them out, we will not solve the problem. A critical piece of the solution will be missing without their input, advice, and involvement.
Our Vision and Mission for this Toolkit
Vision: Youth feel valued, empowered and prepared to engage in and improve their communities.
Mission: To empower and prepare youth and adults to partner for positive change by offering them educational, networking and leadership opportunities
We strongly believe in the power of youth and adult partnerships and the capacity we all have to change the world we live in.
How does the Toolkit develop and encourage leadership skills in youth?
- Youth will have the opportunity to create lasting social change.
- Youth will have the opportunity to be productive and connected citizens who make meaningful contributions - now and throughout their adult lives.
- Toolkit includes information to facilitate leadership skills in youth:
- Public speaking and presenting, decision making, group facilitation, working with others collaboratively, project planning, goal setting, etc.
- Gives youth a chance to practice leadership skills in meaningful and authentic ways. They can develop their skills in "real situations" that are important to them
How do you effectively train youth on leadership to be positive role models and feel confident in their efforts?
- Youth gain self-esteem and confidence by taking ownership of a project, and seeing it through to successful completion (mini-grants can help foster this).
- Involving youth in authentic ways offers them opportunities to build skills and have leadership experiences that add to their confidence and future decisions - and even career paths.
- Involving youth people in decisions that affect their lives and their communities provides them with opportunities to build a sense of belonging and connection to their community and experience a sense of accomplishment and investment.
- By doing the above, youth will gain a sense of belonging to their program, school and community, a sense that they can accomplish things, a sense that they have a voice, and what they do matters.
What is the importance of what we do? Why tobacco prevention?
- Every day 4,000 young people try their first cigarette.
- Every year over 24,000 Texans die from tobacco use.
- Tobacco companies spend billions every year marketing to youth
Why involve youth?
- Young people have a right to be consulted about decisions that will affect their lives, and have unique insights into the strengths and weaknesses of projects aimed at youth.
- Involving youth builds sustainability - young people who lead today are building the skills and interest to lead tomorrow.
- The youth perspective and voice is important because the initiation of tobacco use most often occurs before the age of 18.
- Youth have the passion and creativity (and rebellious spirit) to fight the influences of the tobacco industry / media.
- Young people are valuable partners because they reflect genuine concern for their generation and also project a powerful voice in advocating for community change.
- Young people help to re-energize adults and counteract negative stereotypes of youth when they are successfully engaged in leadership within their communities and schools.
Here are a few other sources of information concerning Youth Engagement:
- CDC Youth Engagement Guide
- Free Child Project - Intro to Youth Voice (from www.freechild.org)
- Tobacco Free Maine
- Texas SayWhat! Youth Engagement Movement